On 27 January 2015, England’s Natural Capital Committee (NCC) published its third State of Natural Capital Report. The NCC’s mandate is to “advise the Government on how to ensure England’s ‘natural wealth’ is managed efficiently and sustainably, thereby unlocking opportunities for sustained prosperity and wellbeing”. BBOP’s Director, Kerry ten Kate, is a member of the Committee. The report envisions a development path in which natural capital loss is halted and eventually reversed in order to counteract accumulated natural capital debt. It is shaped around the Government’s net gain commitment. The report notes that pressures on natural capital are already too high but are set to intensify, with more people expected to be added to England’s population over the next 25 years than in any previous similar time period. Given these increasing pressures, significant changes to past practice will be required to achieve the Government’s commitment to be the first generation to “leave the natural environment in a better state than that in which it was inherited”.
To meet this commitment the Committee advises that Government should develop a strategy with a 25-year plan to protect and improve natural capital and the benefits it provides; determine how this is to be funded, drawing on a combination of public and private funding; assign institutional responsibility for monitoring the state of natural capital; incentivize wider adoption and uptake of the corporate natural capital accounting framework outlined in the report and consider requiring provisions to be made for the maintenance of natural capital; step up action to ensure that the Office for National Statistics and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs meet the target of incorporating natural capital into the national accounts by 2020; revise its economic appraisal guidance to reflect natural capital better and apply this revised guidance to new projects; and drive a substantial, long term interdisciplinary research program on natural capital to inform future iterations of the strategy. For their part, organizations should create a register of natural capital for which they are responsible and use this to maintain its quality and quantity.
Specifically on the mitigation hierarchy and net gain, the Committee recommends that “The National Infrastructure Plan should incorporate natural capital into each of the main infrastructure sectors, following the mitigation hierarchy for managing impacts (avoid, minimize, restore, offset). An investment program for natural capital should also explicitly feature in the National Infrastructure Plan.” As one of the funding sources for the 25 year plan, the report recommends that Government should “ensure that damage to renewable natural capital is, where possible, avoided and minimized, but where it does occur, it is fully compensated by investment in renewable natural capital of equivalent or higher priority or value”.
Information retrieved from the latest (May 2015) BBOP Newsletter.